Running

Even A Caveman Could Do It

What if, along the lines of the Geico commercial, running could be so simple that even “a caveman could do it?” Of course, cavemen ran– they had to. Yet, today, probably because running has devolved from efficient survival-oriented locomotion into recreation and sport, it has become laden with excess. It’s no longer simple, and the forest is lost for the trees.

It doesn’t help that all the wild and wooly dogma of natural running gurus, and coaches, sports scientists, biomechanists, and physical therapists regarding running form echo those proverbial blind men describing the whole of an elephant from each of its disparate ends. They’re all as wrong as they are right. Yes, elephants have trunks, and ears, legs, bellies, and tails, but we know it’s only by stepping beyond a limited reference point that lets us appreciate the whole beast. So, it’s only by gaining perspective that we can understand how, regardless of their methods, runners all run the same way– by harnessing gravity. This is the elephant in the room that until now has been roundly ignored.

Our modern sophistication blinds us to the fact that humans developed within Earth’s gravitational field, and therefore we are ideally suited to redirect this universal force as well as any other animal. And, we’ve been doing it successfully without outside support for millions of years. While the underpinnings are pretty complicated, Nature’s already done the math. All we’ve got to do is get out of our own way…and run.

Consider This

In running there are variables and invariables. An invariable is common to all runners. A variable is something that could be added, but doesn’t have to be. For instance, shoes are variables. Even feet are variables. Legs, however, are invariables. You must have them to run. Of course, you can keep your feet, and your shoes, and as you step through this sample running stride with me you’ll learn to recognize the parts of your own running form you will want to keep, or release.

But, why would changing or refining running technique be important at all? Can’t we just run? Well, if there could be such a thing as correct running form wouldn’t it just make good sense that by using it we may be able to run farther, run faster, and run with less chance of injury?

So, consider that correct running form asks only that runners eliminate the variables, and reinforce the invariables. We’ll start with landing, and conclude with leaving the ground.

Heel Strike

Common to about 75% of runners, the heel strike has been routinely maligned and celebrated. What’s it all about?

Initial Ground Contact: Heel Strike Landing— well ahead of the GCM

A heel strike landing actively swings the foot well out in front of the runner’s general center of mass (GCM), into a braking position. Imagine repeatedly reaching out with a straight leg and a heel edge that collides with the ground to hold off the body weight on… BAM… every… BAM… single… BAM… running… BAM… stride… BAM… BAM… BAM… BAM. Ouch! Right?

Can you say,

  • Knee pain?
  • Hip pain?
  • Back pain?

Yeah, I thought you could.

Yes, the body makes some concessions for heel first landings by rolling at the ankle and rotating at the hip, but, in spite of Olympian Jeff Galloway’s description of its being “cushioning,” a heel strike adds a lot of noise to an otherwise elegantly quiet system of support.

You see, a heel strike adds what’s seen on a graph as a force spike well ahead of our natural supportive loading. This impact at touchdown sends a tremor of about two times body weight straight into the foot, through the leg, and into the hip and back. You can even hear what Hunter S. Thompson called “a hell broth of slapping and pounding feet” as any group of actively landing runners passes. Check out Dan Leiberman’s Barefoot Running: The Biomechanics of Foot Strike video clips and realtime force plate graphs and you’ll immediately see how this undue loading of the runner’s body occurs through the severely active landing of a heel strike.

But, because most runners today are wearing big, bulky shoes they’re not going to feel very much regardless of how they interact with the ground. In fact, many runners don’t really know whether or not they heel strike. They’ve probably never thought about it because they never felt the need. Take off those clunky shoes, though, and run barefooted over a paved surface and any heel strike becomes a concern right away. That’s because instead of a thick, wide, and heavily padded shoe bottom they are now subjecting their small, hard, naked heel bone– hardly the body’s favored touchdown point– to an unforgiving ground. They’ll quickly put their shoes back on or run start running differently.

Now, since there are some 25% of runners who do not “naturally” heel strike (and without shoes there would surely be a whole lot more) it’s clear that heel striking is a variable part of a running stride.

Mid Foot Landing

Since the actual “mid foot” is a series of bones at the apex of the arch it cannot actually function as a landing pad, right?

Skeletal Diagram of Foot— note “Midfoot”

So, what’s really meant by “mid foot” is a flat-footed landing where both heel and ball of foot touch the ground simultaneously. This is mostly a visual illusion. Shoes tend to have elevated heels which would favor a forefoot landing…er, a heel strike… er, a flat-footed landing, but it’s hard to tell because it can’t really be felt, anyway. It can be measured by pressure sensitive devices, but typically contact occurs at either the forefoot or the heel.

One characteristic of this active “mid foot” landing is that it occurs, like the heel strike, well in front of the body’s general center of mass (GCM), so again, it’s a braking force. While it usually doesn’t produce an impact transient that’s as abrupt as the heel strike, an unnecessary force is still present.

Initial Ground Contact: Midfoot Landing— well ahead of GCM

For such an active landing the penalties may include:

  • Sliding inside the shoe– friction equals blisters and toes being jammed into the toe-box can result in black toenails;
  • Muscles absorbing greater loads, for longer periods, increases fatigue;
  • And, the delay of falling into the new stride just perpetuates this cycle.

Another negative with a flat-footed landing is that it bypasses, and thus wastes, the metabolically free elastic rebound inherent within the foot, and the coordinated mechanisms of the ball of the foot and the ankle joints. Worse, plenty of people when learning to run barefooted, or with minimal footwear, or even when trying out a forefoot landing in any other shoes tend to add unnecessary effort. They errantly reach out toward the ground to find their next support. This active landing pits firing muscles– calves and quadriceps– and a misaligned skeletal structure against gravity during landing. Injury often follows. Sadly, blame is normally directed at the (lack of) footwear rather than at runners’ faulty form.

Again, since some runners do not land on their so-called mid foot, it too is a variable component of running.

Paw Back

The idea that a runner can slam their foot into the ground to catapult themselves over that point of contact, and into the next stride is again a visual illusion, a mistaken interpretation of hamstring muscles activity prior to ground contact, and a gross misunderstanding of biomechanical function. For now, because paw back so convolutes any reasonable concept of a natural landing in running we’ll leave it as just another affectation that adds damaging impact– a variable.

The Running Pose

Every runner, no matter how they get into it, reaches the running Pose. Some land in it as they are touching down. The rest progress into it following the aforementioned variables above.

Initial Ground Contact: Landing Close to Pose Position

And, into the Pose Position…

Pose Position

The running Pose is seen as one singular point in space and time that separates the previous stride from the next. Its key visual characteristics are that bodyweight is on the ball of the foot, the ankle and knee joints are bent, and the swing foot is tucked up beneath the hip. The less obvious indicators of the running Pose occur when the runner’s general center of mass (GCM), the swing leg’s center of mass, and the ball of the foot (BOF) are all aligned. Ideally, this happens right at the “vertical moment” but it’s often realized just slightly beyond (as above, and as detailed below). Until you reach this position you’re still in the previous stride.

The Vertical Moment

What’s important to note is that by landing in the running Pose the loading curve of ground reaction is smooth and gradual as the lower limb is allowed to exercise its natural biomechanical springiness. The two to three times bodyweight load of ground reaction applied here is exactly the force that modeled our running bodies, and is distinct from impact, the undue shock created by those active landings above. I might point out that the vast majority of running injury stems from landing. Landing in the running Pose eliminates one of the prime causes of injury.

From the running Pose– the first invariable— emerges a standard from which to distinguish incorrect and correct running form.

So it’s here, from this Pose position, the runner stands on the precipice, ready to give himself to gravity, and begin falling forward at 9.8m/sec./sec. into the next stride. The goal then, and what defines correct running form, is to get into and out of the Pose position– onto and off of support– “on time.” We’ll get to that in a bit.

The Fall

Opinions abound with regard to the propulsive phase in running. Where and how it happens continues to fuel heated exchange between authorities, with perhaps their sole agreement being that it occurs during ground contact.

From the Pose Method perspective the drive in running comes from gravitational torque, rather than by muscular efforts. In short, muscle elasticity (quads / calves) lifts the body in a fraction of the second following mid stance, and muscle activity (glutes and hamstrings) stabilizes the body through the duration of the Fall. This just happens for every runner. Small children do it naturally, and the most highly coached runners do it often in spite of their training. The Fall is how we redirect the downward pull of gravity, and translate rotational motion into horizontal movement.

Once the runner reaches the Pose position he immediately begins falling forward like a felled tree. This occurs in an instant, and within a narrow range. Imagine a pie slice between 12:00 and 12:04 on an analog clock face. That’s our usable range of Fall– 0° to 22.5°. Identify this visually: the runner holds the Pose position, and tilts forward on the ball of the foot. Note that the heel comes off the ground as the runner pivots on his support (BOF) through his speed appropriate range of Fall. This Fall continues until the Pose position is dissolved. That happens when support ends, meaning when ground reaction drops below “one bodyweight.” This is seen when the swing foot is untucked and begins reaching for the ground.

From here…

Beginning Angle of Fall

To here…

Ending Angle of Fall

Ultimately, no one runs until they Fall. The Fall, then, is the second invariable component of running.

Active Knee Drive

Even within the inertia of the conventional wisdom, that is, that running is a result of muscles’ efforts, disagreement with regard to knee drive stirs up further confusion. Some describe the swing leg recovery phase as reflexive, which it is. The thigh, when left to its own function, simply rotates around the hip in synch within the runner’s stride. Others advocate strong volitional hip flexion, but still argue over whether it’s an upward or a forward drive, and what final purpose it’s serving. Does it add to stride length, increase horizontal speed, or just result in greater vertical oscillation?

To be sure, some runners flex at the hip quite a bit, some don’t. In fact, the previous “World’s Fastest Man,” Michael Johnson was known for, among other stride anomalies, low knees— anathema to sprint culture. Go figure.

So, “active” knee drive is a variable. What’s more, because the knee can only trace the arc of a circle, since it hinges at the hip joint, any notion of forward or upward knee drive is imagined.

Paw Back, Foot Drag

Common descriptions of the propulsive phase of running include explanations like…

The extension of the hip is where the power comes from, not from pushing with your toes or other mechanisms which are commonly cited. The hip should be thought to work in a crank like or piston like fashion. This speed and degree of hip extension is what will partially control the speed. A stronger hip extension results in more force application and greater speed, thus how powerfully and rapidly the hip is extended helps control the running speed. — Steve Magness

…and…

[With paw back you] help propel your body forward so that your center of gravity is as far forward as possible prior to the push-off. — Michael Yessis, Ph.D.

…and…

[As per Sir Isaac Newton] in order to create horizontal propulsion, we must pull straight back against the ground instead of pushing down into the ground… [which] involves pivoting the leg backward from the hip with the entire leg as a fixed unit… — Ken Mierke

So, as far as I can tell, the gist here is that the runner should try to pull himself across the ground with great muscular contractions. Problem is, the posterior horizontal ground force always remains below bodyweight meaning, as per Newton’s Third Law– equal and opposite– that that sort of horizontal acceleration just doesn’t add up. What’s more, the proponents of foot drag or paw back seem to turn a blind eye to the reality of the runner’s GCM actually bouncing from stride to stride, and swinging around its support on the ground (as described in Pose/Fall). Actions such as paw back and foot drag can certainly be introduced into a running stride, but, in general, runners– including Usain Bolt, and you, too– can be seen running perfectly well without such variable affectations.

Push Off

Though it’s an illusion, typical pictures of runners sure appear to be powerfully launching themselves forward stride by stride.

Push Off

Here’s one explanation…

The key action that occurs in the push-off is ankle joint extension. Push-off is not, as commonly believed, caused by the glutes and hamstrings being involved in hip joint extension or the quadriceps driving knee joint extension. Observe the ankle joint… and you can see it goes through a substantial range of motion. — Michael Yessis, Ph.D

.

Now, here’s another.

Recall the pie slice range of Fall from 12:00 to 12:04– any push can only be upward. Further, at the point of greatest apparent push, vertical ground forces have dropped below body weight, and the “pushing” foot is, right then, being pulled from the ground. The biceps femoris is starting to bend the knee, and Achilles tendon activity reflects an elastic component rather than muscle action.

In any event, while some runners do try to push into the ground, and others just leave their foot there for too long, the support leg may indeed straighten at the end of ground contact. This certainly looks powerful and Puritanically significant, effort-wise. But, a push only hinders the runner by preventing him from changing support in a timely manner, and burdening his mind and body with misdirected attentions. Since many elite and recreational athletes– and skilled Pose runners– release the ground with a bent knee and a neutral ankle joint, the so-called push off is yet another variable.

Pull

To run we must change support. It’s self evident– the foot has to let go of the ground. So, the Pull is the third invariable.

Pull— release the ground to change support

But, there’s a variable within this invariable: “when?” On time! That means once the Fall is complete, which for most is around 5° to 20°. But I’m not taking a protractor out with me to run, and I’ll wager neither are you. Ultimately, we need to know by feel when it’s time to pull the foot off the ground.

In a perfect world the Pull is handled reflexively. In our world shoes blunt our natural feedback mechanisms, the sensory acuity that provides for precise timing. As well, any willful intent of trying to do more– paw, push, what-have-you– as the foot is being drawn away from the ground only muddles this timing.

Plus, and perhaps a surprising piece in this puzzle, is that we’re also subject to our natural fear of falling (one of two innate fears, the other being of loud noise). Fear of falling can have us reaching out with the swing foot to find terraferma as we continue clinging to the ground behind us. Running, then, looks a lot like walking.

But what if we reframe this fear as a cue? That is, simply, that our support or the security of one body weight is coming to an end. Then, things can change. When you get comfortable giving yourself freely to gravity and feeling the Fall, you’ll begin reacquainting yourself with the primal grace that our earliest forebears enjoyed. Your senses will awaken and will tell you exactly “when.” The Pose Method gives you renewed access to these perceptual fluencies, and it gives them a voice– Pull!

An Aside

While this isn’t an exercise article, per se, it is worth pointing out here that using specific drills are more valuable than, for instance, just mindlessly increasing training mileage. We, as runners, want to reinforce these invariable elements of running which refine the specific skills set that ensures our most precise movements, and ultimately leads us to heightened perception. As well, training without shoes and on bare feet helps to revive our natural physical and mental awareness, too. Less is more!

Insofar as performance, endurance and speed rely on consistent execution– high quality technique. Technique depends on precise neural conditioning, which stems from increasing our awareness of incorrect and correct…timing. Drills are the direct route to becoming a safe and efficient runner, and training volume is valuable only insofar as your good technique can be maintained.

Conclusion

Again, I look back to our prehistory where once down from the trees and exploring our new world with the great strength and dexterity of our hands and arms, the task of bipedal ambulation was relegated to lower nerve function. Over time, as our intent carried us farther from our arboreal habitat and demanded greater levels of mobility our bodies morphed into their present iteration. All this was occurring because we were unconsciously working with the dominating force of gravity to effect such physical changes. Cavemen probably didn’t think much about running form, but you can be certain that because for survival they had to run, and run barefooted at that, they ran right– like any other wild beast.

You can witness this primal awareness in children as they routinely test the boundaries of balance and motion while learning to stand, to walk, and then to run. They use just the invariable elements– Pose, Fall, Pull. It’s only later, after their senses and freedom of movement have been blunted by footwear, and their inherent understanding of movement have been skewed by the prejudices of others that they must be taught, or more accurately reminded, of correct running form.

So, yes, running is so simple that even a caveman could do it. The question is, now that it’s been distilled for you, down to its simplest form– Pose, Fall, Pull– can you do it, too?

Notes:

  • Vertical Moment, Beginning Angle of Fall, and Ending Angle of Fall stride analyses are from a running stride presentation by Nicholas Romanov, PhD. at the American Pose Coaches Conference, 2012. Photos of presentation by Charles Blake, DPT.
  • This post was inspired by the collaboration between Severin Romanov and Charles Blake, DPT, and the “Anatomy of a Stride” presentation by Severin Romanov, at the American Pose Coaches Conference, 2012.

By Invitation

A friend asked me to come and hear a local sports physical therapist who’s also a professor at a prominent University in Southern California give a presentation on running injury. He laid out his case to a room full of budding therapists, and a couple of coaches. While there was a certain logic to his style of diagnosis and treatment, despite his claim that he was addressing the “root cause” of injury– weak hip muscles– he was still only treating symptoms of a bigger problem.

Deceleration

This PT, with an alphabet of academic accomplishment following his name says of the thirteen common injuries or conditions he routinely treats, that ten of them are the result of “deceleration” issues, and of the remaining three, two are caused by faulty swing through, and one is related to toe off. He points out that deceleration– that’s the phase of the stride when the runner first makes contact with the ground, and sinks into its lowest point– is the danger zone with regard to running injury. This loading phase, which ends at the greatest point of knee bend, he says, results in an excessive impact of 2 to 3 times body weight. He says this is best mitigated through the deeper knee flexion and hip flexion of a “proper” heel strike. Yes, heel strike– the recently bedeviled practice of about 75 percent of runners, especially those wearing big, bulky running shoes. While the PT would rather leave the “natural” stride of the runner intact– whatever it may be– he believes runners should develop a long, reaching, heel first landing to attenuate impact shock during deceleration.

Weak Hips

He continues, pointing to a number of projected Power Point slides and video clips of runners on a treadmill where these runners are apparently collapsing into themselves on every stride. Indeed, feet appear to crash into the running surface, ankles seem to give way under strain of body weight, knees fold inwardly, while hips, capriciously tilting and rotating, send the upper body into compensatory contortions. Runners stepped through individual video frames looked off kilter, like an animated Vlado Milunić / Frank Gehry structure. Every stride appears as another jangling functional catastrophe. Why? Weak hip muscles.

He shows a slide of an injured runner whose hip and leg were aligned with tape, and who reportedly became pain free. The long term fix, of course, would be to have the runner train his hip muscles to take over for the taped areas, so he could run comfortably under his own control. And who could argue with such a basic level of fitness? Hip muscle strength and stamina provide necessary stability and alignment for any athlete intent on running farther, running faster, or running with less chance of injury! So, training this area is a no brainer.

Well, the problem remains that most runners can’t be bothered to add a warm up and cool down to their regimen, much less some esoteric gyrations on one leg. They just want to run. But, even if injured runners were motivated enough to complete some four to six months of progressive exercise to fully condition their hips, thus eliminating the so-called “root cause,” they’re still subject to injury. That’s because the real problem remains.

Faulty Form

I myself have benefitted from high levels of conditioning overriding fledgling skills, but I know with certainty, unless correct running form is learned, eventually the undue strains of sloppiness will overrun even the greatest muscular conditioning.

The PT advocates refining running technique, and describes high degrees of knee and hip flexion during the deceleration phase of the stride as the arbiter of good form. This, he believes is how those tremendous loads of running can best be absorbed. He shows still frames from A / B video clips, along with attendant ground force values, and contends that the heel strike and deeper knee and hip bends ideally cushion the runner, whereas the forefoot landing of that same runner leaves her vulnerable to greater impact forces. I don’t follow.

Impact

First, those ground reaction forces at maximum knee bend for each example of the runner’s eight minute per mile treadmill pace are 1200 N and 1300 N, respectively, for heel strike and forefoot landing. These forces represent roughly 2.25 to 2.45 times her body weight, respectively. While this is almost twenty percent of her body weight, or about 22.5 pounds, the actual difference in loading between 270 pounds and about 294 pounds, respectively, is less than ten percent. Seemingly significant. But wait. This level of loading, give or take a bit, is the same for any runner– that’s two to three times body weight– depending on speed.

Nature sorted this out eons ago, and it’s a normal to running. This loading is simply support, and a reflection of Newton’s Third Law– equal and opposite. What’s overlooked, or more accurately obfuscated, is the impact transient produced specifically by heel striking, and to a lesser degree by a forefoot landing ahead of the general center of mass (GCM). So let’s consider this.

For instance, in Dan Leiberman’s Running Barefoot: Biomechanics of Foot Strike video clips, the heel strike example produces– POW!– an immediately visible temblor propagating from the abrupt collision that barrels up the leg like a seismic wave, through the hip, and into the back! But, even though the maximum load is about the same, the forefoot landing example reveals a gentler, more gradual compression and expansion of the musculoskeletal spring– foot, leg, and hip– which safely harnesses ground forces, stride to stride. Notice, whether heel striking or landing on the forefoot, ground forces peak in the same place, and in the same way, and at the same time during mid stance, where the knee is typically at maximum bend. Plus, the impact transient can easily amount to twice the runner’s body weight, too– a far greater magnitude and a far more rapid loading rate than a mere 100 N difference in PT’s observed ground forces. That’s like adding a single barbell plate atop a pile of weights already resting on your foot versus dropping that whole stack onto your foot all at once.

I’d like to add that, while the natural logic of bare foot structure was left out of the talk, there is no argument that few runners will heel strike for long without wearing heavily cushioned shoes. Heel strike running picks a fight with Nature, and Nature hits back hard on that small, bony heel. But even those expensive shoes purchased for protection don’t actually do their job, rather they mask unpleasant sensations so errant form can continue. And impact remains. Oops.

Apples and Oranges

Another thing that struck me was that the PT offered the two sequential snapshots of each, heel striking and forefoot running at initial ground contact and maximum knee flexion (and its attendant weight bearing), as though they were somehow comparable. Granted, maximum knee bend is an identifiable marker, usually representing mid stance. But it didn’t.

In the forefoot landing, initial ground contact would occur directly beneath the runner’s GCM. By the second frame the runner would be leaning well into the next stride, the muscles were unloading, and she was ready to change support. By way of contrast, the heel strike runner would initially load the foot with a braking force– the impact transient– well out ahead of the GCM. By the next frame, the muscles were still being loaded, and the spring was still being compressed. She still had not passed the vertical line of mid stance, and so could not begin falling forward yet into the next stride. She was still in the previous stride! In fact, if she were to lift her support foot in that freeze frame she’d fall backwards because her GCM was behind her support. It would require one, and probably two more frames for the heel strike runner to finally get into the right position to let go of the ground and change support.

Nevertheless, the physical therapist is crowing on about how much better the runner’s form is because her flexed joints are somehow absorbing 100 N of ground reaction force. Clearly he coached her, and he’s proud of it. But I’m thinking that the model runner, a woman whose running form I know well, and who’s not a habitual heel striker, but whose heel striking form the PT is celebrating, is actually trying on every stride to overdo pretty much every mistake a runner can make solely for this A / B demonstration. (Indeed, that was the case. I checked.) Differences in perspective can be fascinating.

Flower & Face Illusion

What’s there? What’s projected?

Separate Ways

Ultimately this physical therapist would rather not make a wholesale change in someone’s running form. He’s not schooled in that. Plus, people seeking treatment probably want a quick patch up, rather than a full stride replacement, anyway. He provides both band aids and exercises, and no doubt has satisfied patients. They will see him often, and for a long time.

On the other hand, I have no interest in adding shims nor splints nor otherwise convoluting techniques to an elemental human activity. I’m not schooled in that. People come to me when they think there is something athletically that they can do better, especially running. They may or may not have been injured before. They may or may not want to improve their performance, per se. But, by working with Nature instead of struggling against it it’s possible to avoid common injury and performance pitfalls. Since everybody already uses the running Pose, the Fall, and the Pull– whether they know it or not– I just show them how they can dispense with the excess and superfluous extras that somehow get tacked onto our movements, beginning in childhood.

My “therapy” then is brief. It takes about an hour to learn the Pose Method concept and mechanics. From there my athletes have the rest of their lives to refine, master, and perfect their running form, safely and efficiently.

When I hear, “Further research is needed” before barefoot running can be endorsed by the scientific, medical, health and fitness communities, my faith in the objective interpretation of available evidence flags again. Where has this protective caution been for the last fifty years with regard to the sales and use of modern running shoes? These willy-nilly, over the counter orthotic devices that materially alter natural gait are somehow accepted as normal, and even defended by these same “conservatives” while the self-evident, bare-footed facility human beings have developed and enjoyed over millions of years is offhandedly dismissed, or ignored. Even as current scientific evidence points to inherent problems with running shoes, and even with touted advances in shoe design, treatment and training protocols it’s a fact that recreational and competitive runners are still going to be injured, in epidemic proportions, in any given year, just by running. Still, few are willing to entertain the glaringly obvious reality that running shoes themselves could very well be the sole injurious agent.

Why?

Perhaps it’s human nature.

For starters, the renowned family therapist Salvador Minuchin once commented, “In response to new knowledge, there is always the question of how to maintain oneself doing the things one was trained in.”

Of course, some people are fascinated by bling. Flashy, shiny things. Visible technology and slick marketing. It’s similar to computer manufacturers learning that just placing a couple of LEDs on the front side of their boxes boosts sales. Or fishermen realizing that tuna would snap up anything— like a bare hook— thrown into their feeding frenzy.

Others think bare feet are indicative of primitive, unsophisticated societies, rather than being a characteristic of healthy, able bodies, and peoples. By uncovering the weak, disfigured feet of the habitually shod and comparing them with the strong, supple feet of those who have never worn shoes the ideas of basic cultural health and intelligence beg for reconsideration.

And then there’s the influence of industry. It sure seems that if there’s a dollar to be made, solutions will be created even for problems that don’t exist. As per Mark Twain, “Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.”

Barefoot— no further research is needed.

At a Cafe, Awaiting the First Cup of Coffee…

This morning, maybe because I haven’t yet had coffee, or that I missed some sleep, or because last night I crossed paths with an individual who refused to acknowledge available evidence because of some sort of bias or prejudice, I’m irritably typing away.

Actually, it began yesterday when my friend Jeff Robins at Runnergy sent an email link to some YouTube videos of running tips by Ian Adamson of Newton running shoes. Jeff knew that as a Pose Method running coach I’d have some sort of response. Indeed, there were a number moments in the video clips where I recognize how Nature and physics would reveal Ian’s errant and misleading beliefs surrounding running form. But, before pointing this out I’d sit through a lengthy footwear orientation Ian was giving at Jeff’s store that night.

The Setup

At its conclusion I volunteered my perspective— “I’d have something to say about that…”— but immediately retracted it knowing full well the futility of such as exchange. But, the speaker, a diminutive Aussie with enormous calf muscles— think Popeye forearms above the ankles— twice encouraged me to participate. It seemed he wanted to hear what I had to say.

Curiously, Ian’s talk on running technique, shoes, and human history was, according to another runner present, “exactly like” a running technique clinic I’ve been giving for a couple of years, now. Indeed, it was eerily similar. While the Dan Lieberman videos and slides of barefoot versus shod running and vertical ground reaction forces were not unexpected, other, more arcane references showing how shoes actually deform the natural shape of the foot, several comical and frightening iterations of fashionable footwear, and images of other cultural disfigurement were surprisingly familiar. The talk also paralleled the Runnin’ Nekkid chapter in my book, Fitness, Straight-Up. What differed dramatically— incredibly— were our conclusions about correct running form.

But, Who Cares?

Correct running form matters because each year tens of millions of runners are injured by their sport. That’s running— something as natural to humans as breathing. The medical / shoe industry complex offers nothing but expensive and ineffective nostrums in the form of medicated shoes and remedial to radical treatments. In more than forty years of trying, this group hasn’t come to a consensus as to the real causes of routine running injury, nor have they even come close to solving, much less preventing the problem. Desperate runners continue to spend billions of dollars barking up the wrong tree, only to end up chasing their tails, year in and year out. Correct running form has largely been written off mainly because very few can agree on just what it might be, or even that it is a meaningful variable to begin with. Sadly, because industry imperative is to serve the shareholder, solutions will come from outside the medical / shoe industry complex. Physicians aren’t much help, either. Many of their ilk still consider running to be an egregious insult to the body structure.

It’s now becoming clear that the shoes we had once trusted to improve our running safety and performance actually kept us from using our natural running form. By getting ahold of exactly how running works we runners can now reclaim our inherent fluency of movement. But, arbitrary tips don’t cut it. Only by carefully realigning ourselves with Nature and the physics that shaped our bodies and determined our movements are we able to enjoy the safest, most fulfilling, and fun running experience. In short, you care about this because you are the runner.

A Point of Light, in the Darkness.

Eventually, a journalist penned a best-selling story (Born to Run, 2009) about a tribe of barefoot ultra-distance runners in the badlands of Mexico, and his own enlightening journey back from running injury to natural running bliss. In doing so he would point out the folly of the medical / shoe industry complex, and the vain attempts and attitudes involved in treating endemic running shoe injury. But, this conversation was initiated in the United States in the late 1990s by Russian emigre Nicholas Romanov when USA Triathlon added Romanov’s Pose Method running to their coaching platform. Then, normally progressive minded multisport athletes were receptive to sound, well-reasoned solutions and Pose Method filled the bill. With its conceptual model of running, step-wise methodology of instruction, clear standard by which to evaluate correct versus incorrect technique, and solid scientific supporting evidence, a universal running technique would become available to any runner. This, about a decade before the form / footwear debate would begin heating up. Yet, there was resistance.

Knee-Jerk Reaction

You see, as uniquely human as running is, so is narrow, agenda-driven thinking. It’s plagued us from the outset, tribe to tribe, and manifests today. Consider the recent insensitive and clearly calculated release of Innocence of Muslims trailer, a YouTube parody of the origins and tenets of Islam and its prophet Mohammed, and the seemingly related extremist anti-American violence in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen and elsewhere. (Like it hasn’t been happening all through the previous 1400 years.) Certainly, the gravity of running injury and correct form aren’t comparable to violent world events, but the mindsets are. Coaches, physical therapists, podiatrists, and the shoe industry— those who enjoy the lucrative niches they’ve eked out— have little motivation to challenge the status quo, even as a bona fide solution is presented. In fact, they’re willing to go on the offensive to prevent the ground from giving way beneath their enterprise. Difference— useful or otherwise— is threatening.

What’s more, many coaches fancy themselves in some way anointed, and privy to divine wisdom. Ego undermines progress. Same here, except I give credit where it’s due. While a couple of others of note from the last century had observed what Romanov had, only Romanov connected the dots and created a complete system of movement. Just as we easily refer to Sir Isaac Newton’s irrefutable Laws of Motion I predict eventually Nicholas Romanov’s Laws of Movement will become de rigueur. One day, the field of biomechanics will stop ignoring gravity’s role in locomotion. This is the crux of the issue, the hairline separation of perspectives that opens a gulf between runners, coaches, and industry.

While it’s generally recognized that the natural and fluid movement observed mostly in kids and primitive peoples includes a forefoot landing, precision is largely overlooked. It’s not a forefoot, midfoot, or toe landing, but only a footfall onto the ball of the foot that allows the body’s spring system to work as it should. It’s a good start, however, that forefoot landing is beginning to replace the formerly “correct” but crazy notion of heel strike, engendered and perpetuated by the shoe industry. (A heel strike is common among runners wearing big bulky shoes, and is a tragic technique error admonished way back the early 20th Century by Nikolai Bernstein— the guy who coined the term biomechanics.) The real magic in running is what happens in between touchdown and toe off, and this is the main point of contention. If what Romanov describes is true— that this is where gravity effectively slings the runner forward— then everybody else is wrong. No one likes to be wrong, and people will go to great lengths to save face.

Conflict of Interest

So, even knowing this, it’s still irksome when the mouthpieces of a prevailing dogma offhandedly and vehemently denounce competing ideas that offer legitimate supporting evidence. It’s especially conspiratorial when these denigrators stand behind the ostensibly objective curtain of accepted “science” without providing substantive specifics of their own, on par with Romanov’s.

Their usual appeal to authority, as Ian tried— “Most scientists don’t accept Romanov’s concepts”— falls flat, with a thud, as logical fallacies always do. Plenty of physicists, biomechanists, and engineers do appreciate Pose Method. But regardless, the veracity of any argument dealing with physical laws does not hinge on peer acceptance, though journal publication might.

Science by the way is not impervious to nefarious manipulation by those with a pulpit, and something to gain or something to lose. The cigarette industry has been successful in this regard. Remember, the “Four out of five doctors recommend…” campaign? So have the coal, oil, and gas industries and their beneficiaries. You’re hearing it now as “Global warming is a hoax,” and in the disingenuous Congressional rationale behind loosening hard won environmental regulation. Then, again, it’s equally present in the now fashionable socio-political fascism of fighting Climate Change and attendant oppressive taxes and other infringements of individual liberty, even as ample evidence and faulty computer simulations cast doubt on human contributions to natural climatic cycles. (What’s more, ninety-seven percent of scientists couldn’t agree on how to tie their shoes.) And so it is, shoe industry “science” has created a body of fictional premises on which to base heel lift, visible cushioning technology, and orthotic motion-control rationalizations— conflicting counter evidence be damned. Note too that the running shoe industry was for cushioned, motion-control shoes before they were (forced by recent research and attendant market pressure to be) against them. Make no mistake that Ian is paid well to tout Newton running shoes— if not a disqualifier, that’s certainly a weighty disclaimer.

While entrenched skeptics would never (save for a better opportunity) change their stance, reasonable people would agree that ever mounting specific studies are substantiating the Pose Method.

Outside Looking In

Of course, Ian, a mechanical engineer with a Master’s degree in Sports Medicine, a world champion adventure racer, and long-time shoe industry insider asked me if I were a scientist— an ad hominem jab at my credibility. Nope. I’m just a dumb fitness trainer who over the last 29 years of professional experience has witnessed the fashion cycles of science-based belief. Medical, health, nutritional truths change like the seasons. Until recently, medicated shoes were endorsed with “science,” never mind that the injury rate of runners continued to climb. The challenging voices were drowned out by the din of that conventional wisdom, “to run safely and comfortably, you must have proper running shoes.” That is until Christopher McDougall’s previously mentioned book came out and shined light on Daniel Lieberman and Dennis Bramble and their radical suggestions that running barefooted was integral to human development. When you think about it, it’s self evident, but we’re taught to believe otherwise. So, while not a scientist per se— my college degree is in English writing, and I’m far from fluent in mathematics— I understand language, logic, and can comprehend abstract concepts. It could be exactly this that makes me even more qualified to appreciate ideas outside the belief system and rigid indoctrination of the mainstream. Remember, much of what is mainstream now was at one time a radical notion on the fringe of accepted thought and belief, and that “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

So, when it comes to correct running form I can fully describe it, document each of its components, run it myself, and quickly teach it to others. You don’t need a Ph.D. to understand it— just an open mind. You would, however, need at least a Masters degree to overly complicate something as fundamentally human as running.

The Burning Question

So what lit this fire was when Ian dropped a shoe from his hand to the floor to demonstrate that gravity only pulls down. He said gravity cannot pull anybody or anything forward— not even a rod rotating about it’s support on the ground. Hell, he’d have been more accurate had he claimed that the world is flat! And this is where I spoke up then tried to back out of further comment before being cajoled by Ian into continuing. I knew attempting to reason with belief could only fail, nonetheless I bit. (There was a videographer present but I think he’d stopped recording by this point. Still, I’d like to see and hear the exchange as I’m sure my memory is imperfect, and my attitude was no more gracious than Ian was willing to participate in my explanation.)

I don’t believe in anything; I accept, based on best evidence. This is my position on Pose running. I detail this on the Huffington Post in Correct Running Form, and in my book, Fitness, Straight-Up. Another of my articles posted at slowtwitch.com is used as an Athletics Wiki reference on Pose Method, and I co-authored a short article with Nicholas Romanov (Founder of Pose Method) on the Pose, Fall, Pull concept of running in his Training Essays, Vol. 1 book. All that will put into context what I say in the above mentioned Huff Post blog article: “No one runs until they fall.” Forward with gravity, that is. Naturally, Ian agrees that every race, or every run begins with a lean in the desired direction, but says that the Fall ends there. Sorry dude, the Fall continues every step of the way, and I have evidence. I can show you with video, scientific papers, and a personal demonstration. Now, if you’ll let me… But, he didn’t.

As it went, I stood and pointed out that the shoe and a runner are different. I was perhaps a bit patronizing as I held a shoe and gestured toward Ian, contrasting the obviously not so obvious: “shoe / runner; shoe / runner.” When I stood in front of him with my hand several inches in front of his chest and asked him to fall (towards me, like a broomstick) he collapsed straight down onto the ground. Really? That’s how you run? Weren’t we just talking about a falling rod pivoting over its support on the ground, just like the body does between mid stance and toe off when running? He knew very well what I meant by Fall, yet, he chose to ridicule the explanation. I said, “I can’t work with this,” and took my seat. Ian refused to play even after he invited me into the game.

Real But Routinely Ignored

I asked then, if not from the Fall, where does running acceleration come from? “From the glutes,” said Ian. He means propulsion from the powerful hip extensors— the gluteus maximus muscles— which calls to mind such convoluted coaching as foot drag, paw back, and push-off. Great, then show me. He didn’t. Although some have claimed mere muscle activity is indicative of direct muscular contribution to horizontal displacement, the normal error is in ignoring the clear and measurable Fall and acceleration due to gravitational torque that occurs during every step of human running while the runner remains in the Pose position.

Also ignored is the primal grace of young children running beautifully without the slightest awareness of glutes, running technique, or specialized shoes. They just naturally Fall forward and keep pace with their foot turnover…as do Pose runners.

Again, if you want a brief description and a few illustrations and references, read the full text of my Huff Post article, Correct Running Form. If you want the concept, the Method, and the math, reference Romanov’s book, The Pose Method of Triathlon Techniques.

Now, if you want to feel this Fall yourself, stand about foot from a wall, in a stance that you’d use for jumping rope, and pivoting on the ball of each foot allow yourself to lean (Fall) into the wall catching yourself with your hands. Then, step back another six to twelve inches and repeat. Notice when the Fall is greater so is the force into the wall. This is what happens in running but instead of hitting the wall or falling to the ground we change support, repeating the sequence as we go. The greater the Fall the faster we run— to a point. Our usable range is between 0° and 22.5°. Within that 12 to 1 o’clock span the gravitational pull (as always) is down, the resultant vector is increasingly forward, and the elastic / muscular push is up. Ultimately, the rotational movement of the Fall translates into horizontal motion because the body is pivoting around its point of ground support, the ball of the foot. So, for a fraction of a second, down equals forward.

But We Already Know This

I reiterate: a dropped shoe is different than a falling rod. A falling rod is effectively the same as the human body between mid stance and toe off, and can be seen as the line connecting the ball of the foot to the general center of mass. Mid stance is momentary balance, where the center of mass is directly over the ball of the foot. The Fall is anywhere afield of balance, where gravity’s downward pull is accelerating the center of mass in some direction— usually forward, in the case of running. Neurophysiologist, Graham Brown noted this in 1912 in Note Upon Some Dynamic Principles Involved In Progression, and so did Dudley Morton, MD in the 1952 book, Human Locomotion and Body Form: A Study of Gravity and Man. The Pose Method running technique would be built around this fact in the 1970s by Nicholas Romanov. Hell, even five hundred years ago Leonardo da Vinci would describe how “Motion is created by the destruction of balance, that is, of equality of weight, for nothing can move by itself which does not leave its state of balance, and that thing moves most rapidly is furthest from its balance.”

By the way, this is precisely why during our evolutionary development we grew taller— to raise our center of mass so we could better Fall and harness gravity for efficient locomotion. This, alongside other morphological and physiological changes brought us from our ancestors of short legged tree dwellers up to longer legged terrestrial hunters and nomads. Human runners! (Of course, there’s heated debate about these facts, too.)

Now, Onto My Second Cup of Coffee

Whew…catching my breath from the flurry of typing I’ll wrap here. I wonder, how would it be if we runners were able to easily align the natural structure and function of our bodies with those physical forces that exist right now in our three dimensional world so that we might be able to run farther, faster, and with less likelihood of injury without having to rely on shims, splints, and other costly nostrums? Maybe health, fitness, and running joy doesn’t just come in a box with a barcode, but really by thinking outside the box of convention.

No matter what kind of runner you are— elite, recreational, or novice— it’s a good bet you want to run farther, run faster, and run with less chance of injury. Or, just to run again with childlike joy and abandon. To these ends some think, for instance, that running success lies in buying expensive, medicating shoes. Others, however, know less is more. They reason that by learning correct running form, that is, how to run in harmony with Nature and the physics that shaped our bodies and prescribed our movements they can dispense with the hype of empty product and promise. And it’s true.

Why add weighty, wedge shaped shoes that promote injurious heel strikes when our inherent springiness provides all necessary support and shock absorption? Why waste energy and mental focus on efforts like push off and knee drive when we’re already hard wired to run perfectly without? The facts are that human bodies are effectively the same because they developed under the same physical forces, so naturally we can all run safely and efficiently. Naturally, of course, means runnin’ nekkid— barefooted— though not all runners welcome such exposure. While barefoot provides better feedback, correct running form can be accomplished in shoes, too.

But what exactly is this correct running form?

Running is controlled falling. Every run begins with a lean in the desired direction and the body falls forward like a felled tree. We let go of the ground with one foot, re-catch it with the other and repeat over and over, on down the road. Simple, eh? But to correct running form, we must cultivate perception.

Let’s first frame our discussion.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Again, since we are more alike than we are different, meaning that we come equipped with the same biomechanical gear and go about our day to day governed by the same natural laws, we all run the same way. What may appear as unique personal style, runner to runner, is still fundamentally identical for everybody — Pose, Fall, Pull [1]. Parsimony is perfection.

So, correct running form starts at mid stance, with the Pose [2].

Pose

The running Pose is something we already do. It’s common to all runners. That’s you, me, the fastest man in the world Usain Bolt, and those joggers we run past in our neighborhoods. The running Pose is a singular point in space and time that separates the previous stride from the next, and becomes a standard by which we differentiate good technique from bad. Correct running form is distinguished, simply, by getting in and out of the Pose “on-time” [3]. This timing, though, requires context— we’ll get to that, later.

Picture of Runner in the Running Pose.

The Running Pose

Notice at mid stance, in the running Pose, how the ankle, knee, and hip of the support leg are bent. When bent just-so these joints become a magnificent musculo-skeletal spring. This spring stores elastic energy gathered from the previous stride and releases it in the next [4]. The spring is fully compressed at one point, precisely when bodyweight, or the general center of mass (GCM)— think of the GCM as a marble lying roughly behind and below the navel— is directly above support on the ground.

Support?

Obviously it’s the foot. But is there a preferred place on the foot to land when running? Could it be the small, hard, bony heel as sellers of cushioned running shoes would have you believe? Or, is it the wide, malleable ball of the foot where sensory receptors lie, where athletic balance resides, and which allows the foot to become a lever that activates our biomechanical spring (alongside additional elastic return provided by the plantar fascia and the foot arch itself)? Find out for yourself by taking off your shoes and socks and jumping rope. Or just imagine you’re jumping rope. You’re bouncing, bouncing, bouncing on the balls of the feet. Now, land on your heels. Ouch! Right? So, instead of creating a potentially injurious impact transient [5] that wouldn’t normally exist without crashing down onto a heel strike or some other active, reaching landing— aka over striding— perhaps it makes sense to let the ball of the foot just drop to the ground beneath the hips first so that bodyweight can instantly begin loading the spring.

It’s helpful to note that this musculo-skeletal spring system exists as our bodies because our earliest terrestrial forebears would have instinctually utilized precisely this alignment as they began running, which over the eons of human descent allowed Nature to fully fashion our “modern” skeletons. Form follows function. Bones grow to suit their use [6]. And so the Pose segues into the Fall.

Fall

From the running Pose— remember, it’s mid stance— we stand on the precipice with our biomechanical spring coiled and ready to lift us up so we can again give ourselves to gravity and fall forward, accelerating at 9.8 meters per second, per second (9.8m/s2) into the next stride, and the next, and so on. Some, however, say we can’t use gravity to accelerate us forward in running because it’s strictly a downward force, mathematically it zeros out and no work is done. Well, while math isn’t my first language, I’m confident that even if such an idea might parse on paper as a snapshot of assorted forces, in the real world it’s a mistake to try and understand a dynamic activity such as running by describing it in static terms.

So I ask,

If a tree falls in the forest and no mathematician is around to zero it out, did its center of mass move horizontally from point A to point B under the pull of gravity?

Exactly! And this is where the magic happens.

Pose, Point A...

Fall, Point B...

Off Support...

Our bodies, like the tree, can be represented as a falling rod [7], [8] by drawing a line from the ball of the foot up to the center of mass at mid stance. As the GCM passes over its support, sequential video frames show the rotation of the falling rod during ground contact in a runner’s stride and the resultant points A to B as horizontal movement. (Beyond point B support is lost.) It’s here where running speed begins, where the musculo-skeletal system redirects gravity, and where the illusory idea of “push off” is dispelled. For starters, any push can only be upward. Think of an analog clock face displaying 12:04. Between the hands, within this cone of support is our range of fall. A push here is far more vertical than horizontal [9], and where our biomechanical spring does its job. Next, to push a runner forward a force greater than the mass of the runner must be returned [10], but posterior ground reaction is always well below bodyweight.

Ground Reaction Forces Diagram

GRF Diagram of Heel Strike Stride

In this GRF diagram [11], the big hump is vertical ground reaction, represented in multiples of bodyweight. Maximum is at mid stance. The preceding spike is the impact transient of heel strike. The small wave below depicts anterior and posterior ground reaction, respectively— frictional forces, about half of bodyweight. Again, any apparent push off belies physical reality— no one runs until they fall. Ultimately, ground forces provide the vertical support and friction that allow runners to fall through a usable range of anywhere past 0° up to 22.5° [12], without slipping [13]. What’s more, ground reaction is about the same for faster runners as for slower runners [14], at the same lean angles. Faster runners just fall through a greater range. Plus, maximum horizontal acceleration occurs before peak posterior ground reaction [15].

Video Still Shots of Usain Bolt Running 100m World Record

Usain Bolt, 9.58 100m World Record

For instance, in the above video stills [16], from the moment his forefoot touches the ground to the instant he releases it, all within about 1/10 second, current world’s fastest man Usain Bolt gets on and off of support— where his full bodyweight is applied to the ground— in half that time. He effectively holds the running Pose while he allows himself to hinge on the ground from 0° to better than 21°. This lets gravitational torque provide the acceleration [17], obviating any need for horizontal push off. Note too, how his joints remain bent throughout. Bolt also runs with a correspondingly quick cadence, or foot turnover of more than 4 strides per second which allows him to keep pace with his range of fall as it also potentiates inherent springiness [18]. This is in large measure his advantage. He feels the natural, gratuitous forces of gravity, ground reaction, and soft-tissue elasticity better than his competition, and has conditioned his neural system to harness them all. His success can be defined in terms of superior perception and skill. Best of all is that within this same context we can cultivate our own running prowess— even if less electrifying— with one simple action.

Pull

While we normally Pose and Fall just fine, most of us Pull each foot from the ground a little too late. Once past support we’ve accelerated, we’re unweighted, and we’re ready to release the ground, yet we tend to hang on. Correct running form requires that we pick up the foot “on time” to change support [19]. But before we get to this all-important timing, let’s look at one more thing: pulling the foot versus the common prescription of lifting the knee.

The Pull is economical, whereas driving the knees forward multiplies running effort! Do the math. Proportionally, a thigh weighs in at about 11% of bodyweight, a foot less than 2% [20]. Consider with your own bodyweight how that difference would be magnified over some 43,000 steps of an approximately four and a half hour marathon, the median finish time for United States runners [21]. Notice too that former world’s fastest man, Michael Johnson’s repeated record breaking performances and his “peculiar, reliable form” [22]— very Pose-like, by the way— debunked high knee lift even for elite sprinters. What’s more, when running our knees swing forward anyway through natural reflexive coordination, and because lifting the foot itself shifts the center of gravity of the lower limb. Ultimately, when our support foot releases the ground on time the other foot naturally touches down beneath the center of mass, as our bodies simultaneously fall into the running Pose. The Pull, then, is the one meaningful action in running [23].

Now here’s the rub, or rubato. On-time means an instant after the body has passed ahead of mid stance and has fallen through its speed-appropriate range. I’m reminded of the Van Halen song, Hot for Teacher where David Lee Roth— that’s right, guy who quipped “I tried jogging, but the ice cubes kept jumpin’ outta the glass”— comments, by way of contrast, on this same internal arbiter— perception— with the phrase, “I don’t feel tardy.” But after early childhood most of us lose access to this inborn sensitivity because our awareness is deadened by cultural preferences and specialized footwear [24], [25].

You see, the lifetime of sensory deprivation to which we’re sentenced by social mores— in particular, confining our feet in shoes and socks, often before leaving the bassinet— renders our feet lame and ineffectual locomotor organs. (I wonder whether our behavioral environment will cause us to eventually forfeit our feet altogether, through disuse, as did horses. [26]) In shoes, the vital communication between the ground and the hundreds of thousands of sensory receptors underfoot is so muffled [27] it becomes tough to know whether we’re on support, or off. Whether we’re at or past the threshold between falling forward and falling down. So when we do Pull, we’re usually tardy. Given that shod feet can’t provide timely notice, and inasmuch as that interferes with spatial, body position cues— if we cannot feel it— how might we Pull on time?

Since no one rings a punctuality bell we must find ways of discerning whether we’re late or on time with the Pull. That is, if we want to revive our inherent physical fluencies, and start using correct running form. Curiously, some don’t. But for those of us who do, by holding the mental image of Pose running, viewing video clips of ourselves and others in motion, training in synch with a metronome, incorporating some barefooted sessions on hard surfaces into our workouts, and by practicing a handful of specific exercises— jumping rope, hopping, skipping, among others— we can at once improve our running mechanics, and begin rekindling our sensitivity to the point where any errant step registers immediately, and is adjusted automatically. Success— remember, to run farther, run faster, and run with less chance of injury, and otherwise savor the joy of running— asks only for attention, practice, and patience. On the flip-side, shin-splints and ilio-tibial band syndrome, a plodding pace, and undue fatigue demand heroic interventions and creative excuses.

Success

A decade ago even while wearing shoes the Pose Method skill set was easy for me to grasp. Injury evaporated, and running became more enjoyable. Perception though remained elusive, that is until 2005 when I began “runnin’ nekkid” in earnest. Since then I’ve learned to feel, because without shoes I can feel correct running form. But, unshod or not the prescription remains no more and no less: Pose, Fall, Pull. Perfect!

Video Clips—

References—

  • 1. Romanov, N. (2002), Pose Method of Running, p. 134.
  • 2. Romanov, N. (2002), Pose Method of Running, p. 55.
  • 3. Romanov, N.. (2009), Pose Method of Triathlon Techniques, p. 104.
  • 4. Fukunaga, T., and Matsuo, A. (1981), Ergonomics, Vol. 24, No. 10, “Mechanical Energy Output and Joint Movements in Sprint Running,” pp. 765-772.
  • 5. Lieberman, D. et al, (2010), Biomechanics of Foot Strikes & Applications to Running Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear, “Biomechanical Differences Between Different Foot Strikes.”
  • 6. Morton, D. and Fuller, D., (1952) Human Locomotion and Body Form: A Study of Gravity and Man, pp. 28-29.
  • 7. Brown, G., (1912), “Note Upon Some Dynamic Principles Involved In Progression.”
  • 8. Morton, D. and Fuller, D., (1952) Human Locomotion and Body Form: A Study of Gravity and Man, p. 131.
  • 9. Cavagna, G. Saibene, F., and Margaria, R., (1964), “Mechanical Work in Running.”
  • 10. Newton’s Third Law of Motion— equal and opposite.
  • 11. Wu, K. (1990), Foot Orthoses: Principle and Clinical Applications.
  • 12. Romanov, N., Payanzin, A., (2006), Book of Abstracts, ECSS Lausanne 06, “Geometry of Running,” presented at 11th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science (Switzerland) July 5-8, 2006.
  • 13. Margaria, R., (1967), Biomechanics of Human Locomotion, “Biomechanics and Energetics of Muscular Exercise,” p. 128.
  • 14. Kugler, F., Janshen, L., (2009), Journal of Biomechanics, “Body Position Determines Propulsive Forces in Accelerated Running.”
  • 15. Fletcher, G., Marcus Dunn, M., Romanov, N., (2009), “Gravity’s Role in Accelerated Running— A Comparison of an Experienced Pose and Heel-Toe Runner.”
  • 16. Romanov, N., (11/3/2009) “Distinctive Characteristics of Usain Bolt’s Running Technique.”
  • 17. Romanov, N., (2009), Pose Method of Triathlon Techniques, pp. 335-354.
  • 18. Cavagna, G. Saibene, F., and Margaria, R., (1964), “Mechanical Work in Running.”
  • 19. Romanov, N.. (2009), Pose Method of Triathlon Techniques, p. 104.
  • 20. Williams, M. and Lissner, H., (1962) Boimechanics of Human Motion, p. 136.
  • 21. 2011 Marathon Statistics and Report.
  • 22. Jere Longman, (4/29/2001), New York Times: Track and Field; “3 Sprinters Chasing New Goals.”
  • 23. Romanov, N., (2009), Pose Method of Triathlon Techniques, p. 92.
  • 24. Rossi, W., (10/2002), Podiatry Management, “Children’s Footwear: Launching Site for Adult Foot Ills,” pp. 83-100.
  • 25. Robbins S., Gouw G., (2/23/1991) Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, “Athletic Footwear: Unsafe Due to Perceptual Illusions,” pp. 217-24.
  • 26. Morton, D. and Fuller, D., (1952) Human Locomotion and Body Form: A Study of Gravity and Man, p. 33.
  • 27. Howell, D. (2011), “Foot Anatomy 101- Biofeedback.”
  • 28. Thompson, H., (1983) The Curse of Lono, p. 27.